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Coping with your First Day of Basic Training

Created by: SGT Michael Volkin

Certainly if you have been to basic training you will always remember your first day. As you laid in your bunk on that first night, thoughts were rushing through your head and your mind was scrambling trying to remember everything your Drill Sergeants taught you. Your muscles and mind were fatigued. On that first night, you felt helpless, alone and at the bottom of a very big hill to triumph.

For all you recruits who entered the military I will tell you this, your first day will be the worst. You will be homesick, in a new environmental and you will not see an end in sight. This will be a time where you need to be mentally tough. You have to remember to take your days one at a time because looking at the entire 9-weeks ahead of you will be very difficult.

In my book, the Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook (www.ultimatebasictraining.com), I interviewed many soldiers and wrote about their first day of basic training. After I wrote this chapter I discovered something very important. Wherever these recruits went to basic training, their experiences differed very little. All of their experiences encompassed basically the same aspects. In the following paragraphs I will explain to you what others have gone though on their first day of basic training, and most likely what you will be going through. I will also add pieces of advice to help you make your first day much more enjoyable.

The Pick-Up

This takes place after the Reception Process (when all your paperwork and medical tests are completed). A bus or cattle truck will pick you up. You will be packed in a crowded vehicle and you may or may not have Drill Sergeants on board. If there are Drill Sergeants they will either introduce themselves, tell you to be quiet or ask you to sing the star spangled banner as loud as you can. Drill Sergeants look intimidating, but do understand, they cannot physically hit you. Tip: Try your best not to show off or stand out at this point. There is always one person on that ride who tries to show he/she is different.

The Drop-Off

When the vehicle stops, all the recruits will be asked to get out as fast as they can. At this point, you may be asked to do a number of various exercises. I will use my first day as an example. When I got out of the vehicle they asked 150 other recruits besides myself to line up and place our luggage in a perfectly straight line, in alphabetical order, in under 3 minutes (which is 45-seconds in Drill Sergeant time). Seeing how it is impossible for 150 strangers to know each other's names, we were forced to do exercises because of our failure to complete the mission. You will fail the first mission you are asked to accomplish; it is designed that way. The purpose of basic training is to turn you from a civilian to a soldier in 9 short weeks. In order to do that you need to realize how difficult it is to become a member of the strongest military power in the world. Tip: At this point, you need to show your Drill Sergeants you are capable of handling physical activity. Mentally prepare for physical activity when you wake up in the morning on the day you will meet your Drill Sergeants. Also, don't be letdown when you fail your first mission, which is what the mission is designed for, failure.

The Meet and Greet

After the exercises you will bring your luggage up to your bunk and meet the members of your platoon. You are all strangers now, but rest assured, you will know a little more than you care to know about each and every member of that platoon when basic training is over. Tip: I cannot stress how important it is to get the rest of the members of your platoon to like you. Don't order people around and don't be too passive; come off as a team player. You can accomplish this by asking each person in your platoon a personal question such as "where are you from" "what sports do you like to play" anything at all. Personal questions show others that your interested in what they are like, and they begin to respect you because of that.

Lights Out

Despite your physical fatigue, you will have trouble sleeping. Your mind will be shuffling through many thoughts. Before you go to bed make sure each member in your sleeping area is prepared for the next day. Often, recruits will need help preparing their uniform or finding certain items. Offer your assistance, your kindness will be appreciated and the favor will be returned in the future. Tip: Keep the big picture in mind and remind yourself why you joined the Army, and how proud everyone will be of you when you return. Mental toughness is 99% of surviving basic training.

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Mike Volkin is the author of the Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook, available at www.ultimatebasictraining.com.